In this post you will learn about a technique I’ve used to increase the organic reach of a Facebook Business Page by 40% without changing my publishing frequency or post types.
Before getting into the details of what I did and how you can replicate my steps to do the same, let me say that while there are some great guides out there that talk about Facebook organic reach, all of them explain how to grow your reach by concentrating on the content aspect of your posts.
There is nothing wrong with that, it’s great advice and something that I will also talk in this post but there is also another easier way to increase your Facebook organic reach that can generate results faster and in a shorter period of time.
Facebook Organic Reach 101
Everybody in the social media marketing world is trying to increase the number of followers (fans) for their business pages so that they win the social proof game.
I have also written a case study in the past that explains step-by-step how to get your first 10,000 fans on Facebook. The Facebook page used in the case study has now more than 110K followers.
Besides winning the social proof game, you need to have a lot of followers on your business pages for many other reasons. One of them being the organic reach of your posts.
In simple terms, Facebook organic reach is the number of people that will see your new posts in their timelines organically i.e. without promoting your posts through advertising.
In an ideal World the greater the number of followers, the bigger is the number of people that will view your post. In the Facebook World this is not quite true.
As you can see in the graph below, the average organic reach of a ‘normal’ Facebook page has been declining steadily since 2013, with some studies showing that the reach in 2016 is no more than 4%.
For popular Facebook pages (with more than 500K likes), the percentage is even smaller. In other words, more than 95% of your audience (in a best case scenario) will never see your posts!
So, it’s obvious that if you want to increase your reach, you have to either use Facebook’s advertising system or find either ways to reach more people organically or both.
Why is organic reach declining?
According to Facebook, there are two main reasons:
First is that there is too much content being shared and this makes it impossible to view everything in the user’s timeline.
Second, Facebook is trying to show content that is most relevant to the users by avoiding spam and content that makes no sense to them.
Of course they give more reasons to justify their decision, but what we are most interested in at the moment, is to understand how they distinguish content that is thought to be relevant to a user so that it shows in their news feed. The answer is found in the Facebook ranking algorithm.
The Facebook Ranking Algorithm
The Facebook ranking algorithm is a set of rules used by the Facebook system to decide what to show in the user’s timeline and also determines the order of results when people use the search function on Facebook.
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It is similar to the Google or Bing ranking algorithm in the sense that it is automated, has hundreds of parameters and is also kept as a secret i.e. the company does not reveal what is actually included in the algorithm and how ranking decisions are made, for obvious reasons.
Why do we care about the Facebook Ranking Algorithm? For a very simple reason. By understanding how the algorithm works we can find ways to optimize our Facebook page and posts for more exposure (both organic and paid).
It’s like doing SEO for Google but in a slightly different way. As we you will read below, there are things to optimize on a post level and techniques you can use that go beyond posts and content.
Understanding the Facebook Ranking Algorithm
Wallroomedia has a nice post that outlines all the changes made to the FRA since 2004. While it’s good to take a look at all the changes, we are mostly interested about the changes made in January and February 2016.
Audience Optimization Tool: This change was introduced in January 2016 and it gave the opportunity to Facebook page owners to set their ‘Preferred Page Audience’.
When you go to PAGE SETTINGS and click PREFERRED PAGE AUDIENCE, you will see a number of options that allows you to select Locations, Age, Interests and Language.
It’s similar to defining your target audience for ads but the purpose of this tool is to help Facebook show your posts to the people that are more likely to find your posts interesting and thus increase the chances of interacting with your content.
Tip: Before making a decision on what to enter as your ‘preferred audience’, go to to INSIGHTS and then PEOPLE to see and understand your current audience and compare their characteristics with the audience you would ideally have for your page (based on your business goals).
Don’t think that ‘Preferred Audience’ will restrict the number of people that will view your posts but approach this as a way to get your posts to the people that matter, even if their audience size is smaller in numbers.
Engagement Probability: In February 2016, Facebook introduced another change in an effort to further improve the user experience by showing them posts that can increase the probability of interaction i.e. liking, commenting or sharing.
Some of the factors that can have a positive effect on the ‘probability of interaction’ and also increase your likelihood of increasing your organic reach are:
- The Type of post (based on past user’s interaction with the same post type)
- When a post is published
- User’s past experience with the page the post is published
- Popularity of the post (in general)
- Popularity of a post among people that can influence your decisions (i.e. your Facebook friends)
To make it easier to understand, in order to ‘convince’ Facebook to show your posts to more Fans organically, your posts have to satisfy the above rules, especially the ones in italics.
In other words:
- A user that interacts with one of your posts now, is more likely to see another post from you in the future. (user’s past experience).
- Your posts need to have a lot of likes (Popularity of the post).
- Your posts should be popular among people who have a connection with your fans i.e. their friends. (influencers).
If it’s still not clear where I’m getting into, keeping reading to see how the above guidelines can be translated into actions.
How to Increase Facebook Organic Reach
STEP 1: Make sure that you have enough Fans on your Business Page
You need to have a good base to work on and that’s why it is important to have a big number of followers on your Facebook page. If you don’t have at least 20K-30K then the benefit from this method will not be big enough.
If you are not yet in this range, the best way to get more followers is to use Facebook ads and go after people that are most likely to follow your page.
This does involve paying Facebook for this service but the benefits, as we will see later, justify the costs since you will be able to target more audience organically in the future.
STEP 2: Use Facebook ‘Boost Post’ to get your posts in front of people that matter (read this part)
This is the most important step of this technique. We will use Facebook ‘Boost Post’ to get our posts in front of more people but NOT any people.
At this stage we don’t want to reach anyone even if it meets the criteria of our target audience but we want to go after our Fans and their friends.
Let me explain why.
Your posts will get more likes – Users are already fans of your page and they are more likely to LIKE, SHARE or COMMENT on a post from a page they follow so your posts will be popular.
Facebook Algorithm gets the right signals – By promoting your post to your fans and their friends (who are not necessarily your fans) and getting interactions from those 2 groups, you dramatically increase the ‘engagement probability’ and this has a benefit for your future posts as well.
Facebook will start noticing that your posts are shared by your fans and their friends and this will eventually increase your Facebook’s organic reach for new posts.
This is what you have to do:
Make sure that your already have 20K-30K fans on your Facebook Business page.
Make sure that you publish a new post at least once per day.
Every week, choose 2-3 of your best posts and use BOOST POST to target ‘People who like your Page and their friends’. You don’t have to spend a fortune, $5 per post is enough.
Experiment with different post types (images, videos, titles etc.) to find out which post types gets the most interactions and promote those more.
Follow this for a couple of months and then stop promoting your posts but do keep publishing posts on a regular basis.
Analyze the results: Go to INSIGHTS and select REACH and compare your organic post reach for different periods. Check and examine what was your organic reach for the period before using ‘Boost Post’, during that period and after.
My tests showed a significant increase (almost 40%), in organic reach in all periods and especially after doing the ‘boost post’ for a couple of months.
7 More Ways to Increase the Organic Exposure of your Posts
As mentioned above, in order for this or any other method to work, you need to publish good content on your page otherwise no one will like or share it even if you pay $$$ in Facebook ads.
In my page I publish the same type of posts (title, image, description) so I cannot comment if other type of posts (i.e. Videos) could do better but I can safely share the following tips to help you increase the organic exposure of your posts.
#1 – Publish content that is relevant regardless of when you read the post
In the Digital Marketing World, this is referred to as evergreen content. Evergreen content is relevant to people that will read it when it’s published and is also relevant to those that will read in 3 months or a year.
Take a look at the screenshot above, the particular post that covers an ‘evergreen subject’ did very well organically and received a decent number of likes.
Tip: I have written a detailed guide here, on how to use evergreen content to increase you traffic.
#2 – Publish on dates / time that are most likely to bring more engagement
I use buffer to manage my Facebook posts and I schedule them to go live during morning hours. I found that if I post between 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM, I get more interactions.
There are many studies that can give you some guidelines, like this study from coschedule (screenshot below) but the best way to find out is to look at your INSIGHTS and experiment with different dates / times.
#3- Less (postings) – generate better results
When it comes to posting frequency it is important to post on a daily basis but you don’t have to cross the line. Respect your audience otherwise if you try to overwhelm them with the same type of posts multiple times a day, you will generate the opposite results.
A study by sotrender concluded that Facebook business pages that publish more than 2-3 times per day experience a decrease in both organic reach and engagement.
#4 – Take advantage of your personal profile
As stated many times above, one of the factors that can help increase your organic reach is the engagement on posts from your friends.
It makes more sense for a ‘friend’ to share or like an article from a friend’s timeline rather than from a business pages’ timeline.
To take advantage of this make sure that as soon as you post something on your business page to share it from your personal page as well.
Nowadays, everyone has a couple of hundreds ‘friends’ on their personal profiles and if you share something with them that is good and interesting they will most probably like it thus pushing your reach even more.
#5 – Use a maximum of 2 #hashtags per post
Unlike Instagram that people tend to like many hashtags on a post, a recent study by social bakers, showed that the optimum number of hashtags for Facebook posts is no more than 2.
With this in mind, there is absolutely no reason why you should use more.
# 6- Use the Audience Optimization Feature
I have shown you above how to enable the ‘audience optimization tool’ on the page level and target a specific audience whenever you publish a new post.
What you can do on a post level is to use post targeting and choose (or restrict even more the target audience per post).
Before hiding the PUBLISH button click targeting and enter several tags in the ‘Interests’ field.
As stated by Facebook, interest’s tags don’t limit a post’s reach but it helps them reach more relevant audience.
#7 – Promote your posts on other platforms
Don’t just rely on Facebook alone but use other ways to increase the exposure of your Facebook posts. For example:
Share the post with your email subscribers: One of the many advantages of having a lot of email subscribers is that they can help you promote a post organically.
As soon as you publish a post on your website, send a newsletter out and ask your subscribers to share the post (if they find it useful) on Facebook.
Share the post on other social networks you have a strong presence: Maybe you have more followers on Twitter, Instagram or G+; take advantage of those followers by asking them to share you Facebook post.
Optimize social sharing on your website: Test and make sure that when someone clicks the SHARE button from your blog post page, the post is optimized for sharing i.e. it has the right image, title and content.
Conclusion and take away message
Facebook page management is a time consuming task. There are so many things to do and check on a daily basis that requires a lot of time and knowledge.
It is thus important to automate your tasks as much as possible and to use techniques that are easy to implement and can generate measureable results in a short period of time or if you have the budget, to hire someone else to do it for you.
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The technique explained above works and can help you increase your organic reach by 40% or more.
The idea is simple, you use Facebook ads (Boost Post) to increase engagement to your posts from your fans (and their friends).
When you do this a number of times, Facebook will recognize that your fans interact with your posts (which is a strong signal in the Facebook algorithm) and so will show your future posts to more of your fans organically.
This technique together with the other methods outlined above: i.e.
- Publishing evergreen content
- Time of posting
- Frequency of publishing
- Using a maximum of 2 hashtags
- Sharing the posts with your friends
- Experimenting with the audience optimization feature
- Promoting your Facebook posts on other platforms
will certainly and easily increase your Facebook organic reach without spending too much time on tasks or practices that are uncertain if they work or not.